In the case, the Supreme Court upheld the legal authority of the local government in New London, Connecticut to take Suzanne Kelo’s land and give it to a private company on the basis of a net gain in tax collection and economic activity. The decision is a fairly radical interpretation of the fifth amendment’s eminent domain clause that says the government can take private land “for public use and just compensation.” What most people interpret this to mean is that the government can buy someone’s land if they need to build a highway, railroad, or for public utilities. The decision was a close 5-4 and widely criticized by the public.
Four years after the decision, the planned $1.2 million in tax revenue and 3,000 or so jobs from the “development” Kelo’s land have yet to be seen because the ground remains unchanged.
For me, on the hierarchy of the importance of certain rights, I think this basic property right is at the top of the pyramid. If the government can decide that your property can be put to better use – aka give it to any special interest they want with the justification of an expanded tax base – there is no intrusion the government can’t justify. The fact that the property has yet to be developed even shows the further B.S. that is involved.
I’d also like to point out that the 4 justices that dissented in the Kelo decision weren’t the progressive stand-up-for-the-little-guy Justices. They were the Justices who are considered more “conservative” on the bench. Kelo was defended by our good friends at the Institute for Justice.